Spontaneous internal carotid artery dissection: early diagnosis and management in 44 patients

J Neurol. 1995 Mar;242(4):231-8. doi: 10.1007/BF00919596.


First symptoms and initial clinical, ultrasonographic and neuroradiological findings ascertained a mean of 5.6 days (SD = 5.6 days), 7.7 days (7.0), and 11.2 days (8.0) after symptom onset were analysed in 44 patients who suffered a spontaneous internal carotid artery dissection (ICD) verified by magnetic resonance imaging, angiography, or both. Common symptoms signalling dissection were unilateral headache in 68%, transient ischaemic attack in 20%, and cerebral infarction in 9%. Severe pain preceded cerebral ischaemia by more than 3 days in 60% of those patients who eventually suffered a stroke. However, only 2 were admitted because of pain alone and 33 for evolving neurological deficits. During the first month, ipsilateral severe headache occurred in 89%, neck pain in 36%, ipsilateral cerebral ischaemia in 82%, ocular ischaemia in 16%, oculosympathetic palsy in 48%, and cranial nerve palsy in 5%. Recent "trivial" head or neck trauma was elicited in 41%. Doppler and duplex sonography confirmed the clinical suspicion of ICD in 91.5% and in 96% of those with a significant stenosis or occlusion. MRI demonstrated a thickened vessel wall in all 33 imaged carotid dissections and a mural haematoma in 30. None of the 32 patients who received anticoagulant treatment subsequently deteriorated. Monitoring anticoagulant treatment with ultrasonographic follow-up studies demonstrated recanalization in 70% and persistent occlusion in 30%. The results demonstrate that familiarity with the initial symptoms, especially headache, and performance of an ultrasonographic study without delay are the cornerstones of an early diagnosis.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use*
  • Aortic Dissection / diagnosis*
  • Aortic Dissection / drug therapy
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / drug therapy
  • Carotid Artery, Internal*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors


  • Anticoagulants